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Daughters of the Mountain

Women Coal Miners in Central Appalachia

Suzanne E. Tallichet

Publication Year: 2006

Much has been written over the years about life in the coal mines of Appalachia. Not surprisingly, attention has focused mainly on the experiences of male miners. In Daughters of the Mountain, Suzanne Tallichet introduces us to a cohort of women miners at a large underground coal mine in southern West Virginia, where women entered the workforce in the late 1970s after mining jobs began opening up for women throughout the Appalachian coalfields.Tallichet's work goes beyond anecdotal evidence to provide complex and penetrating analyses of qualitative data. Based on in-depth interviews with female miners, Tallichet explores several key topics, including social relations among men and women, professional advancement, and union participation. She also explores the ways in which women adapt to mining culture, developing strategies for both resistance and accommodation to an overwhelmingly male-dominated world.

Published by: Penn State University Press


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pp. vii-x

Sometimes it is life’s tragedies and the sorrow they bring that ultimately provide the personal spark for scholarly investigations, such as the one represented in this book. Ironically, where one woman’s life ended, an important part of mine began. The story behind this study of women miners in southern West Virginia started in State College, Pennsylvania,...

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pp. xi-xii

The seventeen-year project upon which this book was based was made possible by the time, talents, and various kinds of support given to mea one semester sabbatical and the Research and Creative Productions Committee for the two grants that supported my postdoctoral research. But what I cherish and remember best have been the kind inquiries...

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pp. 1-19

When you ask her why she wanted to be a coal miner, her eyes glisten like the shiny pinpoints of light that dance off a coal seam when caught in the penetrating beam of a miner’s cap light. Mining is in her blood now, she says in a low voice, gazing down at her calloused, worn hands, thick from almost two decades of what miners call ‘‘brute work.’’ She...

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1 Digging In: Coping with Sexualized Work Relations

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pp. 21-60

In the 1970s, Appalachian coalfield residents experienced both the prosperity of the coal industry’s economic growth and the cultural changes wrought by the social turbulence of the previous decade. Beginning with the oil crisis in 1973, the industry enjoyed a boom that lasted into the early 1980s. Coal-mining companies began hiring underground miners...

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2 From Red Cap to Coal Miner: Adaptation and Advancement Underground

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pp. 61-102

During their early years, the women’s adaptation to work underground was as much physical and psychological as it was social. As they adjusted to the physical demands of their jobs, they also learned to cope with the dangers on a daily basis. Coal mines are noisy, dirty, and damp, andtheir hazards are unpredictable. Problems with access, ventilation, light-...

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3 Ours in Solidarity: Women Miners and the UMWA

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pp. 103-134

When women joined the ranks of men in mining coal, they also joined the miners’ labor union, the United Mine Workers of America (umwa). Historically, Appalachian women have been active in union affairs as the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of coal miners. Many were members of umwa ‘‘ladies’ auxiliaries,’’ which marched during protests...

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4 Over the Long Haul: Accommodation and Resistance to the Culture of Coal Mining

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pp. 135-168

During the course of their careers, the women were constantly confronted with the conflicting expectations of being women and being coalminers while working and interacting with their bosses, male co-workers, and each other. They knew they were seen as intruders disrupting the masculine-identified culture of mining, and to varying degrees...

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pp. 169-177

...talked about working hard, having to be tough with men at times, and adopting more subtle strategies for coping with them at other times. Gaining the men’s respect was more important to these women than anything else, whether this involved resisting or accommodating to the said that working underground made the women she knew tougher. ‘‘It...

Appendix: Fieldwork and Profiles of the Study

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pp. 179-194


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pp. 195-205


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pp. 207-210

Back Cover

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p. 226-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780271053004
E-ISBN-10: 0271053003
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271029047
Print-ISBN-10: 0271029048

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 1 table
Publication Year: 2006